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NZ firies defend hostel response despite 'huge issues' with old equipment



New Zealand's Fire and Emergency's chief executive has defended his organisation's response to the deadly Loafers Lodge fire on Tuesday morning, but conceded firies have old equipment that needs replacing.

"All the vehicles that were there were fit for purpose… but I'm not denying that we've inherited huge legacy issues that we will have to address over time," Kerry Gregory said.

He added that more than a quarter of the fire trucks in usage are between 20 to 25 years old, that the service is having to maintain.

READ MORE: NZ police treating deadly hostel blaze as arson

"We've got a significant challenge about bringing our capital assets into what we think will be right for us," Gregory said.

Fire and Emergency has a 20-year capital budget forecast of more than $2.9 billon ($2.7b) to improve and replenish main assets.

Gregory said based on the service's current forecast income, it could afford only $2 billion.

"The Board of Fire and Emergency New Zealand is looking at options and mechanisms for funding this $900 million shortfall, this remains a work in progress."

He said an operational review would look at Fire and Emergency's response to the fire but said firefighters and call-takers and others involved did their utmost to save as many lives as they could.

"It's really raw for firefighters. Most firefighters in their whole career don't go to a fire fatality, let alone one of the worst we've had in Wellington.

"They are really struggling in that space."

Police are preparing to carry out a thorough examination of the hostel, where at least six people died in a fire believed to the deliberately lit.

READ MORE: Police hoping to enter hostel today after suspicious blaze kills at least six in New Zealand

A general view of the scene the day after a fire at Loafers Lodge on May 17, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand.

The fire broke out in the hostel on Adelaide Rd early on Tuesday morning.

Six people are confirmed dead but the number is expected to rise.

Police are now treating the fire as an arson and a homicide investigation has been launched.

Up to 90 firefighters battled the blaze and including rescued people from the roof of the four-storey building, risking their own lives.

The hostel housed a range of people from hospital workers on the lower floors to a more vulnerable community on the upper floors, residents have said.

Acting Wellington district commander Inspector Dion Bennett on Wednesday confirmed the fire was being treated as suspicious.

This came after a reconnaissance team was able to enter the building on Wednesday.

A more thorough scene examination was planned for Thursday,

"Police are treating the fire at Loafers Lodge as arson and a homicide investigation is under way," Bennett said.

READ MORE: Children 'stable' after 'horrific' bus crash

A general view of the scene after a fire at Loafers Lodge on May 16, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand

Fire and Emergency has confirmed the building had no sprinklers but a recent building warrant of fitness, supplied by the Wellington City Council, confirmed the building was complaint.

Residents, later confirmed by authorities, said there was an initial couch fire in the building about 10.30pm on Monday.

The main, deadly fire started about 12.30am on Tuesday.

A section of Adelaide Rd, north of John St, has been closed since Tuesday. A statement from the council said police would decide when the road could open again.

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